Now anybody can ZIP through files.

Many people still think that ZIP files (not to be confused with ZIP disks) are difficult to work with. This is most true on the Mac where ZIP was always the poor cousin SIT files. But that is no longer the case in either Windows XP or Mac OS X since ZIP is built into both. The ZIP files they make can be transferred between the two platforms with excellent reliability. If you are using Mac OS 9, you need to download the most recent version of the StuffIt Expander for OS 9 as it will extract ZIP files as well as many others.


Watch the movie button.

Making a ZIP archive is amazingly easy on either platform. Assuming you already know all about right-clicking, we can make this quick and easy. You can read the steps below or, if you just want to watch me do this, click on the button to the right.

Image of contextual menu in Windows XP.In Windows XP:

[For Mac OS X click here]

First, a bit of context. I find that many people who work in Windows rarely use the Windows Explorer

  1. Open the folder containing the files you want to copy into a new ZIP archive.
  2. Select the files, you can discontiguously select files by holding the CONTROL key down while selecting files.
  3. Right-click one of the selected files, then select Send To > Compressed (zipped) Folder on the contextual menus that pop out.
  4. Windows will create a new ZIP archive using the name of the file you right-clicked on. It will have all the files selected inside it. This is a good time to change the name to something more meaningful.
  5. These steps can also be performed inside Save or Open dialog boxes - although I find it confusing to think about handling other files while saving or opening files.

To open an archive in Windows XP, you have two choices.

Choice number one, double-click the archive icon and it will open like a folder. Then you can drag the files you want into another folder. Warning: Windows will let you open documents that are inside a ZIP archive. This is great if you just want to see what the document is. But beware that if you change the document and then want to save it, windows defaults to a temporary folder that you have trouble finding if you are not watching carefully. It is best not to work from inside a ZIP archive.

Choice number two, right-click the archive icon and select "Extract All..." and Windows will prompt you through the process.

Image of contextual menu in OS X.In Mac OS X:

Mac users need no longer fear the ZIP file. And they no longer need to have StuffIt just send a few files in a compressed archive. ZIP is now built into the Finder. By the way, this also means that you can open ZIP files you get from your Windows pals. To save a couple of files into a new ZIP archive follow these steps. If you watch the animated version above, it works almost exactly the same way - just imagine that sleek brushed metal interface instead of the Windows interface.

  1. Select the files you want to copy into a ZIP archive. You can discontiguously select files by pressing the COMMAND key while selecting the files with your mouse.
  2. Right-click (or CONTROL-click for you one button mousers) on one of the files selected. If your tool bar is open you can use the "Action" menu to get this same contextual menu.
  3. From the contextual menu, select "Create Archive of [however many] items"
  4. The Finder will create a new file named

To open an archive on the Mac, simply double-click the icon. The Finder will create a new folder with the same name as the archive file and decompress all the files from the archive in that folder.

A Handy Tip

Sometimes it is easier to copy a whole folder to a new archive. That is easy to to by simply right-clicking the folder and selecting the appropriate menu. This creates new ZIP archive file with the name of the folder. Note that in Windows puts the folder inside the archive - effectively making it a folder in a folder. The Mac OS X archive contains just the files.

Using SIT files in Windows.

The program that handles SIT files is called StuffIt. Contrary to accepted belief, Stuffit is not just for the Mac. Windows users who need to open SIT files can easily download a StuffIt Expander utility (for free). I would like to note that if you install this program in Windows, answer the installers questions carefully. Most importantly, do not let StuffIt claim the extension ZIP as it will interfere with WindowsXP built in handling of ZIP archives as shown above.

Windows users need to be aware that not all Mac files they open will be usable. In many cases, though, it is just a matter of adding the correct filename extension. Mac files do not need to have an extension because the Mac has a better way of keeping track of the file format and the files creator application. (If your Windows is set to hide extensions of known file formats, all this talk about about extensions might get confusing.)

All this comes down to is that if you extracted a .sit archive that contained a EPS file, that file may not have a ".eps" extension. Without the proper extension Windows cannot use the file. If you know the proper extension for the file, you can add it yourself and all is well. Otherwise you may need to experiment. Of all the file types, older Mac font files are the most likely to be useless.

Also keep in mind that sometimes files from graphic artists (on either platform) may be unusable in applications like Microsoft Office. Even if the file is a JPG or TIF file, the internal color model may be unsupported by your software. Make sure you tell the creator of the files what you intend to do with the files so they can prepare them properly for you.